UW-La Crosse and UW-Whitewater are dropping first-round games of NCAA football

Madison, Wis.– The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and UW-Whitewater dropped games of the first round of the NCAA Division III Football Championship on Nov. 19.

The Eagles lost 13-6 to Wartburg College (Iowa) in Waverly, Iowa. UW-La Crosse finished the 2022 season with a 9-2 record and secured a share of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) title. It was the 34th championship in program history.

UW-Whitewater won 33-28 at Perkins Stadium against Aurora University (Illinois). The Warhawks finished the 2022 season on an 8-3 mark, sharing the WIAC Championship with UW-La Crosse. It was the 39th league crown in the program archive.

12th-ranked Wartburg (11-0) and 7th-ranked UW-La Crosse traded punts on the first four possessions of the game as neither team recorded a first down. UW-La Crosse took over at his own four-yard line after a 59-yard punt from Owen Grover. Joey Stutzman rushed to the first first down of the game in third and third place. On the next play, Cade Garcia hit Jack Studer with a finish, but Studer fumbled with Grover, who recovered at UW-La Crosse’s five-yard line. Parker Rochford forced the fumbling. Two games later, Nile McLaughlin scored on a two-yard run with 7:07 in the first quarter. Cael O’Neill’s extra point was good. Wartburg (Iowa) maintained their 7-0 lead after the first quarter.

The Knights drove to the Eagles’ 18-yard line in the second quarter, but Ben Bryant was stopped in fourth and fourth by Ryan Daines for a one-yard loss in a close that saw UW-La Crosse take over on the 19th . yard line. UW-La Crosse was forced to punt on the ensuing possession, but Wartburg turned the ball over after Hunter Clasen’s fumble, with Cade Osborn recapturing the ball at UW-La Crosse’s 49-yard line. The Eagles drove to the Knights 36, but Garcia was intercepted by Drew Wyffeis. Wartburg was forced to stab just nine yards with McLaughlin’s attempt, with UW-La Crosse taking over at his own 39-yard line.

UW-La Crosse converted a third and a fourth on Garcia’s five-yard finish to Max Stubbendick. Wartburg was later called out for a personal foul on Garcia, who put the ball up at the Knights’ 21-yard line. After an incompletion, Garcia hit Studer with a 21-yard touchdown pass at 38 left to reduce the lead to 7-6. The drive went 61 yards in eight games and 2:59. A poor snap at the extra point kept it a one-point game.

Wartburg threw a 44-yard completion to Bricen White in the last game of the second quarter, but he was down at UW-La Crosse’s one-yard line by the time time went up to hold it 7-6 at halftime .

It took the Knights just two plays in the third quarter to take a 14-6 lead. Clasen rushed for four yards on the first play and followed that with a 57-yard touchdown run to put Wartburg (Iowa) 14-6 ahead with 14:09 left in the third quarter. UWL responded with a drive to the Wartburg (Iowa) 11-yard line, but Ryan Beirne missed a 28-yard field goal with 9:22 left. Wartburg flipped the ball on his next drive on downs, finishing at UW-La Crosse’s 29-yard line. Garcia was intercepted by Dylan Steen at the Knights 36 two plays later. Wartburg (Iowa) turned the ball on downs again when McLaughlin’s pass fell incomplete on the fourth and fifth at the UW-La Crosse 32-yard line. The Knights led 14-6 after three quarters.

UW-La Crosse and Wartburg traded punts to start the fourth quarter. UW-La Crosse took over at his own four-yard line with 9:05 left and went 57 yards in 13 games to the Wartburg 39-yard line. Garcia’s fourth pass was incomplete when the Knights took over with 4:07 left. Wartburg was able to let the clock run out and recorded three first downs, including a pair on third-down.

UW-La Crosse finished with 216 yards, 81 rushing and 135 passing. The Eagles had 14 first downs in the game while going five of 15 on third down and missing their only fourth down attempt. UW-La Crosse won possession time, 31:13 to 28:47.

Garcia went 17 of 29 for 135 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Stutzman had 91 rushing yards on 29 carries while Studer finished with four receptions for 23 yards and a touchdown. Stubbendick had three catches for 50 yards.

Wartburg had 398 yards with 243 rushing and 155 passing. The Knights had 20 first downs and went for thirds five of 13. Wartburg missed his three quarter down conversions. McLaughlin finished 14 of 29 for 155 yards while Clasen had 222 rushing yards and a touchdown on 31 attempts. Drake George caught seven passes for 56 yards.

Daines led UW-La Crosse with 16 tackles while Adam Quam finished with 11. Elijah Alt, AJ Spychala, Josh Dorschner and Aaron Schmitz each had six tackles.

In the Aurora (10-1) and UW-Whitewater competition, Aurora marched down the field and took an early 7-0 lead after hitting a hit that lasted under three minutes with six games and 66 yards.

Later in the quarter, the Warhawks responded with Evan Lewandowski, who finished a 91-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown down the middle.

The teams traded touchdowns in the second round, with the Spartans retaking the lead on a 71-yard drive before UW-Whitewater came back to tie them with a Lewandowski-Drake Martin connection.

Aurora added another hit before halftime, using a 16-play drive for 91 yards to take a 21-14 lead. They held the lead the rest of the way.

The Spartans took a 33-21 lead in game four, but the Warhawks pressed on. Lewandowski drove UW-Whitewater 73 yards in six games with a 28-yard shot to Tyler Holte, who hit Paydirt to draw the Warhawks 4-10 within six, 33-28.

On the third play of Aurora’s next drive, Kyle Koelblinger jumped on a fast track to intercept at the Spartans’ 32-yard line. The momentum appeared to be in favor of UW-Whitewater. On the Warhawks’ second play, Lewandowski had an open receiver near the end zone, but his pass was a little short in the windy conditions and an Aurora defender jumped into the passing lane to intercept.

With 3:37 left to play, Aurora grabbed a first down and was able to tick off the clock for the finals.

Tamir Thomas led UW-Whitewater’s rushing attack with 81 yards and 10 carries. Lewandowski was 21-36 for 262 yards in contention with three passing and one rushing touchdown. Steven Hein was the most popular target that day, making seven catches for 119 yards.

On defense, Ryan Liszka had 12 tackles, including five solo tackles and one tackle for a loss. Luke Nelson registered a sack for the Warhawks.